I kind of have a thing for the West Side Story movie. I first watched it at a friend’s house in college, and it was only a matter of time before the soundtrack was mine, and I was busy cleaning my dorm room while belting out lines America in my very best Puerto Rican accent.
So it should come as no surprise to you that I serenaded Owen the entire day these carnitas were in the crockpot with loud and impassioned “CarNIIIIItas! CarNIIIIItas! CarNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIItas! CarNIItaaas!” set to the tune of Maria.
These carnitas are loosely based on a crockpot version I found on one of my favorite blogs - Pinch of Yum. Which was perfect, because last week we actually got to have dinner with Lindsay and Bjork – the couple behind the blog. It was such a pleasure to meet them, who, although they are the closest to blogging celebrities that we’ll ever meet, are the furthest thing from intimidating.
We swapped stories of living in humid Asian countries and the back sweat involved, compared house hunting triumphs and pitfalls, and even learned that we’d attended the same college, a few years apart. Which is probably for the best because she may not have agreed to dinner if she’d heard me during the heaviest of my West Side Story phase.
I made a few changes to Lindsay’s recipe- mainly leaving out the beer and salsa and adding jalapeño – and chose to fry my meat after its day in the crockpot rather than broil it…because I’m super healthy like that. Changes aside, these carnitas are legit. My mouth was watering all day as this cooked, and I was not disappointed.
We topped this tender, super flavorful meat with a simple late-summer slaw of crunchy bell peppers and fresh sweet corn, dressed in a zesty vinaigrette of cilantro, lime, garlic, cayenne, and more.
This recipe made a boatload of carnitas and slaw, which we happily ate for several days….each time giving me a chance to sing, “CarNIIIIItas, say it loud and there’s music playing; say it soft and it’s almost like praying….CarNITaaaaaaas…I’ll never stop eating CarNIIIIITAAAAAAAAS!”
(carnitas recipe inspired by Pinch of Yum )
(slaw recipe by Carpé Season)
This carnitas recipe is so, so easy. Seriously, 5 minutes of prep time for tender, flavorful pork that is then fried until slightly crispy. These could almost be served without any toppings; the pork is that good. But we loved this crunchy homemade slaw of bell peppers and fresh corn!
3.25 - 4 lb. boneless pork shoulder
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
juice of 2 limes
1/2 c. orange juice
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. vegetable oil - for frying
2 ears fresh sweet corn OR 2 carrots, prepared as described below*
2-3 bell peppers, assorted colors, seeded and thinly sliced
1/3 of a red onion (about 1/4 c.), minced
1 handful (app. 1/4 c.) fresh cilantro, chopped
5 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. lime juice (app. 1 lime's worth)
1 tsp. lime zest
2 pinches sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
(other optional toppings for carnitas: cheese [cotija, cheddar, etc.), avocados, sour cream, salsa, extra lime juice]
*Use fresh corn if in season. If not, use carrots!
Grease crockpot with cooking spray.
Mix the garlic, jalapeño, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne together to make a spice mixture. Pour the olive oil over the pork shoulder and rub to coat the entire surface. Then, rub the pork with the spice mixture, using your hands to press the rub onto the surface of the pork as much as possible. (I did this in the crockpot so that any spice mix that fell off would end up in the crockpot with the pork.)
Squeeze lime juice and pour orange juice and water over pork.
Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until pork is fork-tender. Remove meat from cooking liquid and shred into small chunks with a fork, discarding any large fat deposits.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over high heat. Once hot, add the meat and press down into the pan, frying until one side is crispy. Turn as best you can, and crisp up the other side for just a minute or two. Fry meat in batches so it has a chance to get crispy.
If using fresh corn, husk it and remove corn using a sharp knife. Break apart any clumps.
If using carrots, peel the exterior, discard, and then use the peeler to create thin shavings.
Put either corn or carrots in medium bowl. Mix in your bell peppers, onion, and cilantro.
In a small tightly-lidded jar, mix together the olive oil, white wine vinegar, lime juice, lime zest, garlic, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Shake these ingredients together in the jar until thoroughly combined.
JUST BEFORE SERVING, pour just a bit of the jarred dressing over the slaw and combine. Add more to taste.
Place carnitas in warmed tortillas. Top with the dressinged slaw and any other toppings you desire.